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June 24th, 2011
02:11 PM ET

Explain it to me: Mormonism

With two Mormons running for the Republican presidential nomination and a play riffing on the religion tearing up Broadway, the country appears to be having a Mormon moment.

Here are 10 facts about Mormonism. What other questions do you have about the faith?

1. The official name of the Mormon church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

2. Mormons consider themselves Christian but their beliefs and practices differ from traditional Christianity in key ways, including belief in sacred texts outside the Bible and practices like posthumous proxy baptism and wearing special undergarments.

3. There are about 14 million Mormons today, with more than half living outside the United States.

4.  The Mormon religion was founded in upstate New York in 1830, when Joseph Smith published a translation of writings he said he found and translated from Egyptian-style hieroglyphics into English.  That's the Book of Mormon, which believers say consists of writings produced by ancient American civilizations.

5. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has outlawed polygamy since 1890.

6. Early Mormons faced intense persecution, so church headquarters relocated from New York to Missouri to Illinois in rapid succession. Joseph Smith was killed by a mob in Illinois. His successor, Brigham Young, led early Mormons to the Great Salt Lake in what's now Utah, where church headquarters remains.

7. Mormon men are expected to perform two years of missionary work beginning when they're 19 years old. Women can also do missionary work when they turn 21, but there is less pressure to do so.

8. Famous Mormons include J.W. Marriott, founder of the hotel chain, Glenn Beck and Gladys Knight, a convert.

9. Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney represent different generations of Mormonism that have related pretty differently to American culture.

10. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is running some major ad campaigns to take advantage of burgeoning interest in the religion.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Mormonism

soundoff (3,741 Responses)
  1. Rajah

    My neighbor is Mormon. They very nice people and always give so much to us. I would vote for either candidate for president. they are good people with core values

    June 24, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • BR

      Until they realize you aren't going to convert, and then you get blacklisted.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • Jim

      Like wearing magic underwear? That's how you decide who to vote for?

      June 24, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • Shanny

      We have dear friends that are LDS and have spent hours discussing religion with them. We even went to a historical site with them in Kirtland, Ohio. While I don't agree with all their beliefs, they are good people with large hearts that I am proud to call friends. They fast one day a month and donate the money they would have spent on food to the hungry, the don't watch R rated movies, they don't drink alcohol or caffeine and value modesty. Who could have a problem with that? They know we are not going to convert and are still wonderful friends to us. I would vote for a Morman president.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Andy

      I agree, my Mormon neighbors are awesome. Bring in meals when we're sick and always helping us with our yard. Best neighbors I've ever had.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  2. BR

    Umm you forgot to mention the part about how they thought Jesus Christ came to the United States in the 19th Century. That's kind of an important difference.

    This article is crap.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  3. SCMorrell

    Sloppy editing. This article is fairly decent, but the photo and the 9 pages of comments so far have enough errors that you have missed the boat. Shoulda kept it to a link to lds.org.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  4. Michael

    Why do other Christians mock Mormons magic belief system? YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC TOO, YOU IDIOTS.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  5. Luther Butler

    I forgot to mention that my mother got blood poisoning after she scratched her arm on a barbed wire fence. The doctor was going to cut her arm off. A Mormon lady, Mrs Roberts, came to our house and nursed my mother until she got well. She also loved and took care of me and my younger sister. The doctor had Mrs. Roberts pour raw iodine on the wound every hour. It left a bad scar, but she kept her arm. Mrs. Roberts is one Mormon lady I will love until I die. By the way, I am 81 years old.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  6. Drew

    It is an imperative duty that we owe to God, to angels, with whom we shall be brought to stand, and also to ourselves, to our wives and children, who have been made to bow down with grief, sorrow, and care, under the most damning hand of murder, tyranny, and oppression, supported and urged on and upheld by the influence of that spirit which hath so strongly riveted the creeds of the fathers, who have inherited lies, upon the hearts of the children, and filled the world with confusion, and has been growing stronger and stronger, and is now the very mainspring of all corruption, and the whole earth groans under the weight of its iniquity.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • Kevin

      Despite the astounding length of that sentence, I don't think you finished it. If we take out the lengthy descriptions, it says "it is our imperative duty to God and the angels and suffering people..."

      June 24, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  7. Roger

    The article contains very little in the way of explanation of what Mormonism is. The essence of any religion is their theological beliefs, and that is woefully lacking in this article. To the author: Please re-write this article and provide details of exactly what they believe. Only then can we draw any conclusions about their religion.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • Google

      Plenty of info via Google.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
  8. AJ

    Best bet is to check out the church web site: mormon – dot – org

    June 24, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • BR

      That's like saying for the most accurate information about cigarettes, you should go to Philip Morris's website.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • Lin

      BR, following your logic, if I want information on Cath olicism, I shouldn't talk to a Catholic or go to their church's website? Shouldn't I ask someone who is Je wish if I want to find out what he or she believes? If I want to know what a Baptist believes, should I talk to a Buddhist?

      June 24, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  9. David LeMay

    The "Mountain Meadows Massacre" only proves that the historical origin was just as Jesus would have wanted. ********"Love your enemies"******** I wonder about the thought process of a Mormon. I quess they believe in Bigfoot too.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Drew

      Before you start saying stupid ignorant comments like that, check yourself. Yes, I am a Morman. Do I live it day to day. Nope. I drink and smoke and live my life. But I am not an ignorant person like you that bashes people for something that they don't know about. So think first before you open your mouth and say something as stupid as you just did.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  10. Jim

    Wear magic underwear now and get your own planet when you die. Mormonism is a cult, not a religion and certainly not Christian.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Shanny

      it's not majic underwear – it's a symbol of modesty.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  11. Sarmak

    I think Mormons rock! They are not a cult. They are just people like you and me, seeking for truth. They are imperfect people striving for perfection, and they realize that Jesus Christ is the only way they will be able to be completely and perfectly be happy for eternity. I have found Mormons to be honest, uplifting and full of integrity. I appreciate their diligence in standing up for what they believe. And just a little clarification, Latter-day Saints believe in ONE god, the God of all planets and all creations. The God head are three seperate beings.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Jim

      Just like you and I? I don't wear magic underwear. I do not believe in a magic hat, magic stones, and magic runes. Joseph Smith was a pedophile. You support pedophilia?

      June 24, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • Sarmak

      And you know this for a fact?

      June 24, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • NoBS

      He married a 14 year old, Helen Mar Kimball. That pretty much defines him as a pedophile. Now, be a good apologist and spew that junk that it was "spiritual marriage" and not a physical one. Lie some more for the Lord.

      June 24, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  12. Marcelino

    Anyone who believes that they need a book to tell them how to live their lives is an idiot. We all know deep down in our hearts what is right and what is wrong. I guess most people don't have the strength or courage to to believe in themselves enough to trust their own instincts. Sad.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • lance corporal

      well said! look deep inside yourself and you will find the Goodness these churches say you need them for!!

      June 24, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • HGH

      Good point, anyone can live their lives any way they want. Some look into their hearts, kill 14 people and eat them. They don't need a book to tell them what to do.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • RLP1509

      So I guess the Bible, Koran and all other religious texts considered as scripture by their believers should be trashed?? I hope you never repair a car or your plumbing by not looking at a book to see how to do the job!!!

      June 24, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • JB

      You don't need a book to tell you how to live your life? Have you ever used a math textbook? Read poetry? Learned anything about Chemistry or Physics from a book? You've probably never even seen a real copy of the Book of Mormon. Your comment isn't well thought-out.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  13. Lance

    I attend LDS Church every week even though I think it is completely bogus. I do so because if I didn't attend my wife would leave me and my extended family would probably have nothing to do with me. Mormonism teaches many good moral values and instills a respect and concern for others but it sadly also bases that action on myths and fairy tales. It also creates constant social pressure and downright fear to uphold standards that are excessive and completely unecessary for social harmony that leave it's members perpetually feeling inadequate and unworthy.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • Artist

      Sounds like you need to grow some b @ ll s. Pathetic.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • murpis

      Lance, I find that really sad that she would leave you if you didn't attend church. I am Mormon and I would never expect my spouse to go to my church if they didn't believe in it. I don't really go to church because of the pressures. I'm sure she only wants you to go to receive the blessings for going. Mormons need to understand that the more you pressure inactives or non-members, the further away we get. Leave us to make our own decisions.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • rex

      What kind of a life is that? Pretend to believe in something so your family won't leave you? How about finding a family that you're actually compatible with?

      June 25, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  14. Frank

    Why doesn't CNN take a crack at defaming...I mean explaining Islam? Perhaps they can account for the decapitations, stonings, etc??

    June 24, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  15. CF

    Is there a connection between Joseph Smith's hat and Mitt Romney throwing his hat into the ring?

    June 24, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  16. Totaly A false religion

    Based on practices completly agaist christianity polygamy and also baptising the dead. Based on a group of people that never existed here in america thatere is no geological evidence for any of it. When asked what happened to all tribes of isreal the were here the resonse is that another tribe killed them all and then god cursed thier skin thus makeing the indians wow how absurd. No one in thier right mind would buy into that . what a bunch of deception and spoiritual darkness. I feel that the founder josepf smitt and all the leaders are under a seripous judgment for propitiating all of these lies it is also reported that one of thier beliefs is that Jesus and Lucifer are brothers and God chose jesus Plan of salvation over Lucifers Wow that is major blasemey to compare the King of Kingsd and the Lord of Lords with the greates liar and deciever of all time . And How aboutr the polygamy this is cleary spoken against in the New testament " and a minister must be the husband of ONE wife......" thats what paul Wrote under the direction of the Hol;y Spirit with whome thier is no variation or shadow of turning. These people are apostates and great decievers.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • CF

      How could anyone believe those silly things that the Mormons claim as truth? Especially since the Bible tells us about the real truth of a talking snake in a magical fruit tree, a woman being changed into a pillar of salt for being curious, a really really big flood, two by two, Jesus raising the dead Lzarus, walking on water, changing water to wine, and himself rising from the dead, Yes, I prefer the truths in the Bible as way more believeable than the truths in the Book of Mormoon.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • kristin

      Wow. You could really use a little spellcheck. Also, pitting one religion's "evidence" against another's "evidence" shows that you could use a little reality check as well.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • G2

      blah blah blah

      June 24, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • RLP1509

      Paul also wrote about baptism for the dead. Read 1 Cor. 15:29!!! He also wrote about 3 heavens of glory comparing them to the Sun, Moon and stars. Hmmm wonder where those Mormons conjured up these 2 little bits of information???

      June 24, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • kormallain

      Yes Jesus might have walked on water, but Chuck Norris swims trough land!

      June 24, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  17. lance corporal

    anyone who knows the story of how this silly cult got started and still believes in it is capable of an amazing level of self delusion, yes that's true with all the major religions but this one in particular is just mind boggling stoooopid in it's origins

    June 24, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • CF

      Ever check out Scientology. Science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard must still be laughing in his grave. Unless of course, he is an Operating Thetan.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  18. MormonDemocrat

    For a more detailed look into Mormon beliefs, check out the official page of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

    http://mormon.org/

    Overall, I think this was a well done little piece. Yeah, they've got some odd pictures but it's good for someone who wants a church overview in a few minutes.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  19. Dan Bauer

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day saints is the only true church of Jesus Christ on the earth today with the power and authority to act in his name. It is the only church in the world led by a living prophet which allows modern day revelation just like God has always done for his children. It is so sad to see a world that makes fun of things they don't understand or seem to improbable to give it a chance. It's interesting that Satan knows that this is the true Church of Christ and he does everything in his power to make it acceptable to hate, ridicule and do anything else that is negative towards this church and has made it politically acceptable. One day all will know as every knee will bend and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ and that he did restore his church back to the earth through the prophet Joseph Smith to end the great apostasy and to prepare for the literal second coming of Jesus Christ. All that can hear please hear and all that can see please see.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • lance corporal

      MY church is bugger than your church nahnee nahnee nahnee

      June 24, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • Totaly A false religion

      Pwere to act in his name wow are you decieved < since when did jesus ever agree witha people who didnt exist ( the twelve triabs of isreal in the Americas < and since when did he preach multiple wives < think not , you are the blind leading the blind. And I think a severe judgment will come on all thise who mislead people in the name of Christ it is so sad the amount of dulusuion you are under.

      The Hyroglyps were Translated the the plates Josefh Smith had showed nothing more than and egyptian embalming ritual.
      Jesus and Lucifer are no where in the Bible ever made out to be brothers but are arch enimies.
      A Minister must be the husband of one wife .

      It is pointless to baptise on behalf of the dead

      " it is apointed unto men once to die then the judgment"

      For By fiath you are saved which is a gift from God not of works lest any man should boast,

      therefore working your way through the rituals of mormanism will not in any way sabve your soul.

      The tribes the book of morman speakes of never existed and were never here in America wake up , this is ridiculous and to rest your eternal soul on thies lies and to boldly claim " this church is the only on e on earth with authority " is das and i would say laufable if youw erent leading people to hell with doctrines of Demons.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • Jim

      You follow the teachings of a pedophile.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • CAPRO.info

      The arrogance in your commentary, Dan, is exactly the reason why the Mormon Church is a counterfeit of Christianity, and not a Christian church at all. In fact, your comments are almost as arrogant as Joseph Smith's when he bragged:

      "Come on! ye prosecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! for I will come out on the top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I."—Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 6:408-9.

      For more information on Mormonism that the Mormon Church that further exposes it as a cult, please go to http://capro.info/Cults/Mormonism/What%20is%20Mormonism.html

      June 24, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • bobby

      I think it is interesting that mormons think that anyone that questions their authority is automatically satanic. I wish mormons would be more like Jesus and do miracles to prove their claims instead of using ridicule and bashing other religions.
      Without Jesus' miracles, Jesus would just be another man would good ideas. I hope like Huntsman, they could see the good in other religions and people. I have spent 23 years or so, in the LDS Church, and now I find in order to hear from those that love Jesus Christ, I must go to a lutheran, presbyterian, epsicopal, methodist, etc, church to hear. The typical mormon today is summed up by what Jesus said: "pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be children of my father in heaven." Today, mormon largely persecute other religions, while ignoring their own sins.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • Tony

      http://carm.org/mormonism
      Jesus is the only way and the Bible the only inspired word of God from cover to cover, no other books were or will be inspired .... people who add or remove from the Bible , including false prophets like Joseph Smith, have their own place in the pit of fire. Revelation 22:18-19 Reads : "18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll. "
      Proverbs 30:5-6 Every word of God [is] pure: he [is] a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.
      Galatians 1:6-12 , Deuteronomy 4:2 etc.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
  20. Fuller

    My Sister-in-Law is a Mormon. I must admit that her and my brother are very committed parents. We have spoken often about her beliefs and I find nothing weird or cultish about the faith. Genuine, sincere and very good people from my observation.

    June 24, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • Dennis

      Joseph Smith was a known con man before starting LDS. He'd con farmers with phony treasure maps. That only had him jailed three times.

      The mob that murdered him was a group of his own followers.

      Sleep on mormons, sleep on.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.